'We're not all that different from each other'
Their stories, struggles and fears may vary, but the message from 20 RCMP employees in a video aimed at youth is the same: life does get better.
The nine-minute film features a mix of police officers of different ranks and other employees sharing their personal experiences in discovering they were gay and dealing with it as young people.
"I was teased at times and ridiculed and called a faggot," recalls one male officer.
"A lot of the people I went to school with said I was effeminate, I was gay, and I was somehow judged for that," says another man.
"It was a huge, huge struggle for me," adds a female constable.
The participating officers share their difficult, often moving, experiences coming out to their families and the lack of role models they had.
But they also drill home the fact that that life got significantly less difficult with time.
"Never give up, it does get better."
"I can absolutely tell you things get better."
"Things get way better."
The video was initiated by Const. Cheryl Letkeman, an RCMP officer with Surrey's youth unit. For several years, she'd been following the It Gets Better Project online (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/), which aims to show lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth the happiness and potential of their lives if they can just get through their teen years.
"I noted that a couple of police forces in the United States had put videos on the website and I just thought 'why haven't the RCMP? Why haven't we done this?' " says Letkeman.
She canvassed RCMP members in the Lower Mainland to see who would want to participate and ended up with the 20 participants in the final video.
She remembers struggling and a child and a teen and not having any positive role models.
"High school is hard – whether you're gay, straight, it doesn't matter – it's hard," Letkeman says. "I just wanted all youth to know there are people that have gotten through high school… and that there's people out there that will stick up for them and try to help them any way they can."
And she believes the perspective of police officers and other members of law enforcement will prove valuable.
"I think there's stereotypes that go along with law enforcement as well as stereotypes that go along with gay, lesbian and transgendered people. Hopefully we've sort of broken some of those and given not just gay and lesbian people something to think about, but all youth, and all people, really. We're not all that different from each other."